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April 17, 2002
'Press release from indictsharon.net'



Press Release from www.indictsharon.net: Lawyers for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre Victims Respond to Belgian Court Decision in the Matter of Ndombasi Yerodia

Press communiqué by the lawyers for the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

We have read today the decision by the Court of Appeals in Brussels in the case against Mr. YERODIA, former minister of foreign affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As in our case lodged against Ariel SHARON, a complaint was lodged by victims against Mr. YERODIA and others on the basis of the Belgian Statute law of 16 June 1993, providing for universal jurisdiction for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide.

Although it represents a setback for international humanitarian law, the YERODIA decision cannot and must not automatically be transposed to the Sabra and Shatila case. As the spokesperson of the Court of Appeals pointed out himself this morning, the Yerodia decision is "not binding" on the Sharon affair. "In addition," he continued, "the Chamber ruling in the Sharon case is composed of different judges." In any event, the presentation of arguments has yet to be completed in the Sabra and Shatila case, and the next oral pleadings are scheduled for 15 May in Brussels.

The Court of Appeals in the Yerodia case decided this morning that a disposition of another Statute Law on criminal procedure, dated 17 April 1878, is applicable on all cases of so-called extra-territorial jurisdiction, including the 1993 Statute law. This 1878 disposition states that a criminal investigation can only take place if the suspect is found on Belgian territory. Such condition is of course an anachronism dating back over a century, especially for international crimes that affect the conscience of humanity as a whole.

This is why the Belgian legislature decided, when discussing the 1993 Statute, not to request the condition of presence on the territory for these crimes. Quite the opposite: as we pointed out in our pleadings, the 1993 and 1999 preparatory works testify expressly "that the law should apply even if the accused is not found in Belgium." We have the support of the Attorney General in this respect and remain confident that the Court of Appeals, and eventually the Court of Cassation, will refuse to distort the law in a way that allows the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide to continue enjoying impunity.

We remain confident that the support of our case expressed by the four major human rights organisations in the world, on the basis of their comprehensive reading of the Belgian law, and the large international anticipation for the prosecution of Mr Sharon and those responsible for mass crimes, will not be betrayed by the Belgian judiciary. Our fight is a long and hard one, but the cause is just, and the reliance on narrow procedural grounds by Mr Sharon and other mass crime perpetrators is further testimony to their poor standing before humanity. We also expect the Belgian legislature, and that of other countries respectful of the international rule of law, to fulfil their obligations towards the international community, and confirm that the widening responsibility for mass crimes will not be reversed by restrictive and narrowly technical interpretation of universal laws.

Brussels and Beirut, 16 April 2002

Chibli Mallat, Michael Verhaeghe, Luc Walleyn
Laurie King-Irani, Ph.D. North American Coordinator
International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila


www.indictsharon.net is the website of the International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila, offering news on the case lodged in Belgium against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israelis and Lebanese responsible for the massacre, killing, rape and disappearance of civilians that took place in Beirut between 16 and 18 September 1982 in the camps of Sabra and Shatila and the surrounding area.

For more information, see www.indictsharon.net

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